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Sanctioned Team Sports Play In the US Remains Strong, But...

Date: 10/2/08

SGMA Says Team Sports Play Peaks at 13 -- Niche Sports Are Showing Strongest Growth 

Click here to order U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2008 Edition)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 2, 2008 – While traditional team sports like basketball, baseball, and outdoor soccer are attracting the most team sports participants in the U.S., niche team sports like lacrosse, paintball, and cheerleading are exhibiting the strongest growth patterns – according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s (SGMA) annual participation study on team sports -- U. S. Trends in Team Sports (2008).  According to SGMA, activities like lacrosse (up 104.2%), paintball (up 51.5%), and cheerleading (up 24.5%) have been showing significant growth since 2000.  Other niche sports that have had respectable gains in participation in recent years have been ultimate Frisbee, rugby, field hockey, and all forms of volleyball.

According to SGMA, there is a continuation of a trend in team sports – participation in sanctioned/supervised leagues is quite strong while there’s been a decline in the number of athletes playing casual/pickup players.  On the bright side, overall play in high school sports rose for the 19th straight year and 58% of U.S. children (6-17) are playing on at least one sanctioned team each year.

For the fourth time in as many years, this major report on team sports in the United States also contains a special report:  Analyzing Team Sports Participation by Age, which is a two-part report on nine sports.  In the first part, you can determine the number of participants per sport at any age between 6 and 17.  The second part shows the percentage of people at a specific age who participate in that sport.  For instance, 820,000 12-year olds played outdoor soccer in 2007 which means 17.8% of all 12-year olds played outdoor soccer in 2007.

Also contained in this report are editorial summaries or charts on the following:

  1. Comparing Popularity of Team Sports – (1) top ten most popular sports for high school boys and girls and (2) top six most popular NCAA sports for men and women.  Football is number one for high school boys and college men.  Basketball is the most popular sport for high school girls and soccer reigns supreme for college women.
  2. Fan Interest in Team Sports – measures the fan interest in major pro and college sports for people aged 12 and older in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2007.
  3. Manufacturers’ Sales of Team Sports Gear – listed are manufacturers’ sales (at wholesale) of sports equipment for baseball/softball; basketball; soccer; volleyball; football (2006 and 2007 only); ice hockey (2005, 2006, and 2007 only); and lacrosse (2006 and 2007 only).  Years represented are 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Listed below are a few newsworthy points about team sports listed in U.S. Trends in Team Sports:

Basketball – More than half (53%) of all basketball players are considered frequent participants, i.e. those playing 25 times or more a year.

Court Volleyball – For those court players aged 17 and younger, 73% were females.

Grass Volleyball – More than 80% of these participants are involved in casual/pick-up play.

Beach Volleyball – Of the three forms of volleyball, beach volleyball is the one with the oldest average age among participants – 31 years of age.

Slow-Pitch Softball – There are nearly as many slow-pitch softball players between the ages of 18 and 34 (3.4 million) as there are players over the age of 35 (3.61 million).

Fast-Pitch Softball – The average age of a male playing this sport is 36 years of age, while the average age of a female playing this sport is 19 years of age.

Outdoor Soccer – Since 2000-01 school year, there have been more women soccer players at the collegiate level than men players.

Indoor Soccer – Two-thirds (2.8 million) of indoor soccer players also play outdoor soccer.

Gymnastics – 75% of all gymnasts in the U.S. are female and 51% of all gymnasts are aged 6-12.

Tackle Football – Nearly half (47%) of all tackle football players also play touch/flag football.

Touch /Flag Football – There are as many participants aged 25-44 as there are aged 6-17.

Baseball – There has been a 14% increase in participation in varsity high school baseball play since 1990-91.

Cheerleading – Participation is steadily rising:  from 2.6 million cheerleaders in 2000 to 2.9 million in 2006 to 3.3 million in 2007.

Ice Hockey – Nearly 40% of all ice hockey players come from homes where the annual household income is more than $100,000 per year.

Field Hockey – Nearly half (47%) of all field hockey participants play this sport at school.

Lacrosse – Participation at the high school varsity level has risen by more than 370% since 1990.

Paintball – 50% of all paintball participants list ‘private property’ as their favorite venue to play the sport, while another 45% list a ‘commercial field’ as their number one locale.

Roller Hockey – Roughly 62% of all roller hockey enthusiasts are playing the sport either at home (on a driveway or cul-de-sac) or at a public facility (such as a city or county recreation park).

Rugby – It remains one of the most popular athletic club sports on U.S. college campuses and the sport is growing quickly at the high school level around the country.

Track and Field – This is the second-most popular sport for girls in high school and college, second only to soccer.

Ultimate Frisbee – In 2007, 56% of all participants were aged 18-34, up 52% in 2006.

Wrestling – More than half of all ‘core’ participants (those wrestling on a ‘regular’ or ‘frequent’ basis) were under the age of 17 in 2007.

Data for this report is derived from various sources – the U.S. Census Bureau, NCAA, NFSHSA, NCYS, Pop Warner Football, AAU, Little League Baseball, USA Volleyball, USA Softball, Dixie Baseball/Softball, PONY Baseball/Softball, Babe Ruth Softball, RBI, American Legion Baseball, American Amateur Baseball Congress, USYSA, USA Hockey, and ESPN Sports Poll.

Click here to request a copy of U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2008 edition).  It’s a free report for Full Members of SGMA and the editorial media.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the #1 source for sport and fitness research and author of the single-sport participation study on basketball, is the global business trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.  SGMA leads the sports and fitness industries while enhancing industry vitality and fostering sports, fitness, and active lifestyle participation.  More information about SGMA can be found at www.sgma.com.

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